Help me dye my shirt with coffee!
July 5, 2006 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I have this fabulous fitting, great quality white shirt - with a very very permanent very light brownish/greyish stain on the shoulder. So I've been thinking of dyeing the shirt using coffee - i figure I like the colour of my other accidental coffee stains, now I just have to do it on purpose. Help me do it right, the first time!

I obviously can't dye a test swatch, since I don't have another piece of fabric that's the same as my shirt. So I want to do it as well as I can, the first time! Any advice would be appreciated!

The stain on the shoulder is pretty light - visible enough that I can't really wear this shirt anymore as a "nice white shirt", but light enough that I don't think it will show through any dyeing. The fabric is 100% cotton.

I'd like to make the colour as even as possible - or, if I can't, then 'evenly mottled'.
posted by Kololo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total)
I think you will be better off either

a) dyeing the shirt using actual fabric dye, or else

b) having the shirt dyed professionally.

Otherwise, you can follow these directions for tea staining. I used to tea stain a lot of costumes back when I was a theater student, and it generally worked pretty well. Never tried it with coffee. You should be aware that, tea or coffee, the color will probably not be absolutely even.

My suggestion, if you're determined to be artsy-craftsy, would be to select a muted medium-range color of dye (say, dusty rose, taupe or olive drab) and do a subtle tie-dye. That way any irregularity of color will seem intentional, not like a bad amateur dye job.
posted by La Cieca at 7:16 PM on July 5, 2006

Make sure you look good in that color. Sometimes light warm browns/khaki's are hard to wear near the face.

I would use actual fabric dye, not coffee. I think tea dyes (or coffee dyes in this case) are charming, but it might not take evenly, or fade.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:29 PM on July 5, 2006

You may find the dye doesn't cover up the stain as well as you'd hoped; it may just turn the stain a little darker than the rest of the shirt. That's been the case when I've dyed clothes in the past, anyhow.

But like others have suggested, commercial dye (or tea) would work better than coffee. And if you have a top-loading washing machine, you can do it in that (much easier than by hand in a tub!).
posted by hot soup girl at 8:28 PM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, so clothing dye. The only brand I'm familiar with is the 'Rit' dye I've seen at the drug store, and used for tie-dye when I was a kid. Is that a brand you'd recommend, or is something else better?

Hot soup girl, that website is very helpful and informative - do you have any experience with any of the dyes it recommends?
posted by Kololo at 8:58 PM on July 5, 2006

I visit a particular sewing site, and there is a lot of good information on fabric dye. thread

Another informative thread at Patternreview
posted by LoriFLA at 9:06 PM on July 5, 2006

I had great results with Rit when I did some costuming back in the day. The lighter the color, the better the result, so go with the lightest color that you think will cover the stain. If you really love the shirt, though, take it to a professional. You might try a tailor that specializes in wedding parties, as they will have experience with dyeing stuff for bridesmaids dresses.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:25 PM on July 5, 2006

I've tea'd many an item, and it isn't a problem getting the colour on evenly. If it's uneven, just throw it in the washer and then the dryer. The problem is the stain goes on so evenly that it doesn't hide stains (unless they are coffee or tea stains). It works well when you've got something white that has gotten a terminal all-over dinge.
posted by orange swan at 4:49 AM on July 6, 2006

Can't tell you about the colors or coffee, but I swear by RIT dye. My mother has dyed and re-dyed most of her linens as stains have proven impossible to get out of the white (or she's simply wanted a different color, due to redecoration, or wanting the tablecloths for my handfasting a shade of blue she couldn't find). And I've worked for a company that required my jeans to be very dark blue, a shade nearly impossible to find (and jeans tend to fade quickly, anyway) for years, and everyone there who cared dyed their jeans with RIT (which also covered up some stains pretty well--I got a bad mustard stain on one pair of jeans that wouldn't wash out for anything, but the dye covered it up well). So if you're going to use a fabric dye, that should be fine.
posted by Cricket at 8:12 AM on July 6, 2006

Have you considered having the shirt duplicated?

I've heard good things about this place.
posted by freq at 9:45 AM on July 6, 2006

RIT also makes various fabric treatments besides dyes, such as whiteners, and dye and stain removers. If you've written off the shirt as is anyway, you might try one of those products first. Maybe you'll end up removing the stain.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:48 AM on July 6, 2006

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